Stop the Leak: How Pelvic Floor Therapy Can Remedy Incontinence
Posted 7/13/2016 by UHBlog
Anyone who has suffered from urinary incontinence knows it’s nothing to sneeze at.
“Bladder leakage or urinary incontinence is often an unreported condition that is more common than people imagine,” says obstetrician/gynecologist Sherif El-Nashar, MD, PhD. “Fortunately, when women seek help there are many ways they can be treated effectively without surgery or medication.”
When it comes to urinary incontinence, it's an equal opportunity annoyer.
“Women of all ages suffer from loss of bladder control and/or the frequent urge to use the restroom,” he says. “This affects obese women, as well as those who have had children and post-menopausal women. Research shows that women over age 65 have a 50 percent chance of bladder leakage.”
One of the reasons women tend to lose bladder control as they age is the reduction of estrogen, which is necessary to keep the muscles and connective tissues of the pelvis and urinary tract healthy.
“When the pelvic floor is weakened, activities like jumping, coughing, laughing or exercising can cause urine to leak through the relaxed muscles in the bladder,” he says.
Here are four ways Dr. El-Nashar says you can prevent “leaking”:
- Watch Your Diet. He recommends that you try avoiding foods on the following list for three days and then reintroduce each food, one at a time.
“Through an elimination process, women can determine which foods are bladder irritants,” Dr. El-Nashar says.
Those foods and substances include:
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Carbonated beverages
- Spicy foods
- Onions, tomatoes, vinegar
- Corn syrup, honey
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excessive body weight puts pressure on the abdomen and bladder, which can result in leakage.
- Do your Kegels. Pelvic floor muscle exercises – known as Kegel exercises –are easy to do and can be done lying down, standing or sitting.
A quick way to figure out how to do a Kegel exercise is to try to stop the flow of urine when you pee, and notice what muscles that action involves. To do a Kegel exercise, you contract those same muscles for three seconds and then relax them. If you're pulling in your stomach, you're not using the right muscles.
“Kegel exercises should been done regularly,” he says. “To prevent urinary incontinence from worsening or happening down the road, these exercise should be added to every woman’s daily fitness regimen.”
- Get help from a pelvic health physical therapist. If the problem becomes a quality of life issue, there is help available.
“A pelvic health physical therapist can help a patient regain bladder control in a private, confidential manner,” Dr. El-Nashar says. “The physical therapists at each of University Hospitals Female Pelvic Medicine Centers specializes in creating targeted pelvic floor exercises. Pelvic floor exercises require practice – and often guidance. That's why it's a good idea for a professional to show you how to do them properly.”
Pelvic floor therapists at the UH Female Pelvic Medicine Center use biofeedback to determine if the patient is contracting the right muscles when she does her Kegel exercises. The goal is to be able to hold the muscles in the pelvic floor for a count of 10 and do three sets of 10 repetitions every day.
Sherif El-Nashar, MD, PhD is an obstetrician and gynecologist at University Hospitals. You can request an appointment with Dr. El-Nashar or any other University Hospitals doctor online.